Wednesday, March 17, 2021


From the Gardens Registrar: How This Place Works; Volunteer Opportunity; Don’t Take the  Bricks; Birdhouses; Reminder About Opening Day March 20

Hello Gardeners,

 HOW THIS PLACE WORKS – Who runs these gardens, anyway? (No, not the Registrar – I just assign plots, answer questions from gardeners, and make feeble attempts to enforce the rules.) Surprise – you do! These gardens are actually run by the gardeners. Since our gardens are on University property, the UW does have some say in what we do and how we do it, but primarily our policies and projects are created by the gardeners. We have a Garden Committee that meets the second Wednesday of every month (currently via Zoom), and we have an email discussion list – every gardener is allowed and encouraged to participate in both of these things. The Garden Committee is led by two Co-Chairs, who run meetings and lead the group in planning and decision-making. Which leads me to:

 VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY – We currently need a Co-Chair for the Garden Committee. This involves very little work other than attending the monthly one-hour meeting and putting together an agenda every month. (There are occasional crisis situations that may involve more, but that’s unusual.) New gardeners, as well as long-term gardeners, are welcome to apply. We would especially appreciate having a Co-Chair to represent University Houses Gardens. To apply, please send me an email, explaining why you would like the position, and telling us a little about your background. If you have any experience herding cats, that would be helpful. We will accept these emails for two weeks, and then invite candidates to our next meeting, April 14, to meet the committee.

 THOSE BRICKS AND BLOCKS BY THE WEED PILE AT EH– Please do not take these bricks and blocks to your plots for your own personal building projects. We will be using these to shore up the 900 row as soon as the current pandemic allows us to have workdays. We also do not encourage people to put bricks and blocks in their plots, because they don’t stay on the surface – they sink, and make problems for future gardeners. (There are bricks buried in my plot, for instance, which are a nuisance.)

 BIRDHOUSES – We have received a request from the volunteers who monitor the bluebird boxes that are part of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. The Biocore Bluebird Trail consists of eight Bluebird boxes located along the edges of the Biocore prairie, which is above the Eagle Heights Gardens. They also take care of the Purple Martin House at the northeast corner of the gardens. Their mission is to provide, preserve and protect habitat and nesting sites for song and migratory birds. (A number of our gardeners are part of this group, and thank you.)

There are about 25 birdhouses in the Eagle Heights Gardens, mostly very old and in bad shape. They have asked that our gardeners take them down. Although it’s nice to think of attracting birds to our gardens, the only birds that use these houses are English sparrows, starlings, and other invasives which compete with bluebirds and other native species. The native birds we enjoy in our gardens, such as robins, finches, warblers, cardinals, blackbirds, and native sparrows, do not use these birdhouses. If you have a birdhouse at Eagle Heights, please take it down. If you have questions or need help removing the house, please let me know. The English sparrows don’t need any help from us, but the bluebirds do.

OPENING DAY MARCH 20 – A reminder that our Opening Day will be Saturday, March 20. On that day, the tools and carts that have been stored in the garden sheds for the winter will be brought out. We will also have some free plant pots and trays available at both gardens. More of these will come out in the next few weeks, so you don’t have to be there on Saturday to get some. As I mentioned last week, we have lots of free seeds to distribute, and those will start appearing on the share shelves at both gardens beginning next week, depending on the weather. Just keep an eye out.

 Happy Gardening,



Thursday, March 11, 2021


From the Gardens Registrar: It’s Starting Soon! Information on Upcoming Non-Events at Eagle Heights


Hello Gardeners,

 OPENING DAY – Opening Day for our gardens this year will be Saturday, March 20. On that day, we will bring out the tools and garden carts that have been in storage for the winter at both gardens. Although we’re not officially open until this day, we do keep some tools and carts outside all winter, so that gardeners can work in the off-season.

 Portable toilets will be set up at both gardens starting on Thursday, March 18. By March 20, the parking signs on Eagle Heights Drive will be changed from the winter version which does not allow garden parking except on weekends, to the garden season version, which designates the spots along the south side of the street specifically as garden parking.

Please note that the water in the gardens will not be turned on until there is no danger of heavy frost that would damage the pipes. Don’t expect the water to be on until late April, or even early May.

 FREE SEEDS – Normally (that is, when the Earth is not experiencing a global pandemic), we hold a Seed Fair every year, at the end of March. Current gardeners come to the Community Center that morning, check in, and receive tickets which they can exchange for seeds for vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Last year, the Coronavirus settled in while we were planning the Fair, and it had to be cancelled. This year, the health situation is better, but we will still not be able to hold our usual event.

 However, we do have lots of seeds to share with gardeners. After our Opening Day, I will begin bringing seeds to both gardens, and leaving them on the share shelves. I will bring some out several times a week, depending on the weather. We will have seeds for the vegetables that need to be started early in the season, in the house, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. We will also have seeds for early crops, such as lettuce, carrots, radishes, greens, beets, and peas. Seeds for beans, cucumbers, squash, melons, herbs, flowers, etc., will be brought out later when the weather warms up.

 Last year, our gardeners did a fantastic job of social distancing. It will be important again this year, particularly when people are clustering around seed packets. Please wear a mask and give other people space when you are in common areas of the gardens and other people are around.

 FREE POTS – We also have a large collection of plastic plant pots, including trays and pots for starting seeds. These will also be brought out to both gardens and left on the share shelves. Help yourself. (They take up a lot of space in my office, and I hope to never see them again.) If you have extras of these at home, as most gardeners do, please bring some to the gardens to share.

 ROW COVER – Many of our gardeners use this garden fabric to give their seedlings protection from insects, wind, and cold. We buy big rolls of it, cut them into smaller pieces, and sell them, at cost, to gardeners. Again, because of the pandemic, we weren’t able to sell any last year, but this year, we will sell some, for $5 per piece, in the next few weeks. We haven’t set dates for this yet, but when we do, I will include the information in one of my next weekly messages.

 QUESTION; So, does this mean we can start gardening now?

 ANSWER: NO, my dears, it’s still March! It’s way too early to plant anything outside. We’re having nice warm weather this week, but it won’t last. We will have more cold and snow before Spring really takes hold. The gardens are still covered with snow, and once that melts, the ground will still be frozen. Once it thaws, it will turn into mud. And it is very bad for your soil to dig and work it when it’s wet and muddy, especially for us with our heavy clay soil. (It’s also bad for whoever washes your clothes.)

 Early April is generally the earliest anyone can actually start planting anything here, and mid to late April is still plenty early.  Planting too early can be counter-productive - seeds won’t necessarily sprout and plants will grow very slowly if the soil is too cold. However, you can certainly do some cleaning and clearing in your plots now, if you’re desperate to be outside.

Happy Gardening (pretty soon),